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Coca-Cola Habit Linked To NZ Mother's Death
A New Zealand mother died from a cardiac arrest after drinking up to 18 pints of Coca-Cola a day for two years a coroner has ruled.
The huge consumption of the fizzy drink by Natasha Harris, a mother-of-eight, played a substantial part in her death, the inquest heard.
The 30-year-old from Invercargill on New Zealand's south island died in February 2010 of cardiac arrhythmia - or a disrupted heartbeat - following about 18 months of ill health. She was found slumped in the bathroom at home, gasping for air.
Coroner David Crerar said: "It is more likely than not that the drinking of very large quantities of Coke was a substantial factor that contributed to the development of the metabolic imbalances which gave rise to the arrhythmia."
He added: "All constituents of Coke are entirely legal, are enjoyed by millions and Coca-Cola cannot be held responsible for the health of consumers who drink unhealthy quantities of the product."
Ms Harris had drunk Coke heavily since her teens and the amount she drank meant she had more than twice the safe daily limit of caffeine.
Her partner, Chris Hodgkinson, said she had a poor diet and would drink Coke first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
All her teeth had been removed because they were rotting, and one of her children was born without tooth enamel.
She did not drink alcohol or smoke cannabis, but smoked about 30 cigarettes a day.
Coca-Cola, however, said the cause of death was far from clear.
In a statement the company said the coroner himself acknowledged he could not be certain what caused Ms Harris' heart attack.
The statement said: "We are disappointed that the coroner has chosen to focus on the combination of Ms Harris' excessive consumption of Coca-Cola together with other health and lifestyle factors as the probable cause of her death.
"This is contrary to the evidence that showed the experts could not agree on the most likely cause."
The coroner recommended the New Zealand Ministry of Health considered whether current warning labels on soft drinks gave enough protection to consumers on the dangers of drinking too much of them.
He also recommended Coca-Cola should consider labelling how much caffeine is in its drinks, and include warnings on drinking too much caffeine.
In response, Katherine Rich from the industry body the NZ Food and Grocery Council, said: "In his finding, the Coroner recognises that tobacco warning labels made absolutely no difference to Ms Harris' decision to smoke up to 30 cigarettes a day, so it's hard to reconcile this with the recommendation that warning labels on caffeinated beverages should be considered and may have influenced her decision to consume excessive amounts of soft drink.
"The FGC does not support the coroner's call for warning labels on fizzy drink. No regulatory system can legislate for extreme cases."